Kathi and the amazing team behind the book Curtain Call, author Lyneta Smith and editor Mick Silva are here to answer all of our questions about how to work with an editor. In this first episode they talk about how to find the editor for you and answer:
- What are they looking for before agreeing to work with an author
- What are the two types of editors you don’t want
- How do you qualify an editor
- Why everyone needs an editor
- What are the tools of the trade
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Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Mick Silva is Senior Acquisitions Editor for Zondervan Books and has nearly 2 decades of experience working in Christian publishing. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI with his wife and two daughters.
Lyneta Smith has published several stories and articles in periodicals and anthologies. Her memoir, Curtain Call, released in 2019. She plans to continue writing books highlighting God’s redemptive power in stories. When Lyneta isn’t writing, you can find her at her local coffee shop or snuggled up with a good book.
Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the Podcast!
Writing at The Red House Podcast # 203
How to Find the Editor for You
Welcome to the Writing at The Red House Podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread, and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and speakers.
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Writing at The Red House Podcast, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators that God has created them to be. I am so excited about our series. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time. We come here, and we tell you what editors want, but I thought, “Why don’t we actually have an editor tell us what they want?” So, we have got the amazing team behind the book “Curtain Call”, author Lyneta Smith and editor Mick Silva. Lyneta, welcome to the Writing at The Red House podcast.
Lyneta – Thank you. Great to be here.
Kathi – Well, you are a frequent flyer with the podcast. We’ve had you on before, but I’m very excited to welcome your partner in crime, Mick Silva. Nick, welcome to Writing at The Red House podcast.
Mick – Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s my honor.
Kathi – Okay, so every editor and author has a meet cute story, so who wants to tell us how the two of you got connected?
Lyneta – This is the best way to find your editor. Have someone you trust in the business recommend them; someone who can say, “Hey, I know someone who would love this project and someone who would work great with you.” I took an earlier version of the Curtain Call manuscript to a writers’ conference, and I showed it to an acquisitions editor and she said, “Well, this isn’t ready yet. You need to work with an editor.” And so I felt a little dejected about that, because, of course, you want a contract when you go talk to an acquisitions editor, right?
Kathi – “Why aren’t you throwing contracts at my feet? I don’t understand. Why do you not recognize my brilliance?”
Lyneta – But she did see the potential. I’m talking about Alice Crider.
Kathi – Who’s amazing.
Lyneta – Yeah, she’s amazing and she’s a great editor in the Christian book world. She recommended Mick Silva, and so the next writer’s conference, Mick was also there on faculty, so I met with him and I was very grateful that he kindly agreed to work with me and my manuscript. So, that’s sort of how we got together. Just connections and networking at a writer’s conference.
Kathi – So, Mick. Did you read her work before agreeing, or did you just say, “Hey, you’ve got the cash.” Relationships have been built on less.
Mick – Yes, definitely. Cash is king. Yes, I did. Was it Mount Hermon? What conference was it? I forget which one it was.
Lyneta – We did see each other. Yes, it was Mount Hermon.
Mick – So, yeah. We had samples of material that are sent through the manuscript service there, and looked at the sample, loved it, was very impressed. Knew that she was trying to tell something very vulnerable. Of course, I’m just a sucker for a great story, so you know. What are you going to do? You read something, you’re drawn in, you want to talk to the person.
Kathi – I love it. Okay, so you guys decided at that point. So, Mick, I want to know, how do you normally find authors? Or how do authors normally find you? What is it that you need to make sure is there before you’re really willing to work with an author? Especially a first time author.
Mick – That’s a great question. There are a lot of ways that that can happen. Obviously, networking is crucial. Knowing the right people helps to make those connections. Going to a writers’ conference, though? You want to bring your best work. Bring a sample that shows what you can do. If it’s a personal story, or a personal narrative, like a memoire, then it’s got to be that strong hook on the first page. Really showing who you are, what your big story is about, and gives me a taste quite quickly. So, if I’m grabbed, I’m going to keep reading. If it’s something that grabs me, I know it can grab others, so that’s central.
Kathi – Yeah, I also know that it also helps if you are friends with an author of that editor. It’s like a matchmaking service, really. Would this editor be a good fit for this author? You guys did an arrangement where Mick edited your work before you sent it out. You were working as a freelance editor, but there are also editors that work in publishing houses that acquire works. Many of them are kind of the same thing. You want to work with somebody whose work you believe in and you believe has a place to go. I would have to assume. What a terrible job to edit things that you don’t like.
Mick – Right.
Kathi – I’m sure both of you have done that. Lyneta has been my editor, so I know she’s had to do that a few times.
Lyneta – No. I love editing for you.
Kathi – That’s very sweet, but I know sometimes it’s a bigger chore than you originally signed up for. Okay, so, Lyneta, you say there are two kinds of editors you don’t want. So, what are the kinds of editors you don’t want?
Lyneta – You touched on the first one. You do not want someone who doesn’t get your story. If they don’t like memoire, for example, you don’t want them as your editor. They need to be passionate, so you don’t want someone who’s not passionate about your work. The second one you don’t want is, someone who’s not qualified. There are a lot of “editors” out there. We’re putting air quotes around it. They will take your money, but they haven’t had any training. They don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a skill set you acquire. It’s talent, but there’s also a lot of knowledge that you have to gain first before you can be good at editing.
Kathi – Yeah, so how do you qualify somebody? There’s always the recommendations, “This editor did a great job for me.” And things like that. If someone is new to editing and you’re like, “Oh, I think this could be a good relationship.” What kind of questions would you ask? How do you say, “Are you any good at what you do?” It’s a terrible way to phrase it, but what would you look for? Is it somebody who understands the language, who understands what you’re talking about? What are you looking for? I guess I’m asking both of you. Sorry.
Lyneta – There are networks. Christian Editors Network, for example. There are networks where you can connect with an editor. They’ve had training. There are specific hoops they have to jump through to get into those organizations. That’s one way. You can also ask them what books they have worked with. When I learned that Mick was working with Ann Voskamp’s book, for example, that was impressive. So, just their creds. What sorts of training have they had? What sorts of organizations do they belong to? What have they edited that’s been published?
Kathi – So, let me ask this: Mick, what made you a good editor? We don’t need any humbleness right now. Everybody agrees you’re a good editor. There is also, out there in the ethos, many affirmations of that, but what do you think got you to the place where you’re an editor that people want to have?
Mick – Forgive the noise. I’m having my lawn cut, apparently, right now.
Kathi – You know what? Somebody else is doing your yard work? We love that. Go for it.
Mick – Well, that’s what a big, fancy editor I am.
Kathi – Exactly. Somebody else cuts your lawn.
Mick – I think it varies, honestly, what type of editing you need, is probably an important part of this. Considering types of editors is usually above most people’s understanding. What types of books they’ve worked on. If it’s a memoire, it’s a personal narrative. You want to find a person with experience in that; what types of books they’ve done. Did you enjoy those books? Are those books you’ve read? I think a lot of times I’m meeting writers at conferences who haven’t read the books that are like their own. So, that tells you that, “Okay, you at least need to do some homework. Find those books and get to know them.” Editors are going to be asking you those questions. I helps your own writing to be able to do that.
Kathi – True story: I was at a writers’ conference and I was sitting at lunch, and I heard an editor, talking to another editor, say, “If I have to edit one more pedantic how-to book, I’m going to kill myself.” Then I had an appointment with her. Well, I write prescriptive nonfiction, which is basically how-to books.
Mick – They’re not pedantic, though.
Kathi – I don’t consider what I do pedantic, but yes. I think she was embracing all the how-to books as being pedantic. She really wanted my book, and I’m like, “I really don’t think you do. I think we need to find a better relationship.” So, in our next episode, we’re going to talk about what kind of editing you need, so we’re going to get back to that. I think that’s really important. When somebody says they’re an editor? That could mean about ten thousand different things. I just had somebody, a childhood friend, say, “Hey Kathi. Can you tell me where I can find an editing job?” I’m like, “On my goodness. I don’t have three hours to figure out what kind of editor you are. I need you to go do that work.” So, we’ll talk about that in the next episode. You’re right. Most of us don’t know. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I didn’t know all the editors that were involved. So, if this is something you don’t know either, you’re definitely going to want to tune in next week. Okay, Lyneta, I’m going to ask you this first, then I’m going to ask Mick. Lyneta, how do you know if you’ve found the right editor for you?
Lyneta – I think, you have to work with them for a little bit, but if you get back the first chapter and you look at the changes you suggest, and you go, “Oh yes! Of course! This makes my writing so much better.” I think that’s it. But if you get it back, and you see a typo that you forgot, or you see something that is just off, like they just didn’t get what you were trying to do and they messed up your sentence? Then you probably know you don’t want to continue with that editor.
Kathi – I’ll never forget two experiences I’ve had. One, I sent in a requested devotion and they said, “Yeah, we’ve decided to turn the feeling from this from funny to serious.” They tried to take a funny piece and make it serious. I was like, “Yeah, you can use it, just don’t put my name on it. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” Then, I had another organization, this has both been submitting pieces. They said, “We do everything in third person.” They didn’t tell me that, so they took my first person article and changed it all to third person. It was supposed to be a humorous article and it was the worst. I’ll tell you who it was later on. So, I think that’s a great thing. If they don’t get you right away, it’s better to cut your losses than it is to continue in a bad relationship. I really think that, maybe having somebody edit one chapter, and if you love them say, “Okay, here are the other thirteen.” I think that’s a great idea. Okay, Mick, how do you know if you’ve found the right editor for you? I’m assuming your writing gets edited, too.
Mick – Oh, yeah. Everyone needs editing. You can’t see everything you need to see. The trouble is, you don’t really know that until you get shown. You have to practice some humility, you know? That very difficult, to know it’s working. So, the first chapter, and a trial run, maybe, so that editor can kind of show you the things they’re seeing. Any good editor, in the first chapter, is looking for the proof of this person’s credentials. Whether that’s their own experience, or their actual credentials, of being someone who’s an expert. They are also looking for the promise. What are you offering your reader in this book? Are they going to get healed? Are they going to have some good takeaways? Then, the size of that problem. Is the problem well explained? Is there something here that I need for my life? Felt Need is what we call it. If the editor is seeing those things, they’re going to praise you, if you did well. If they’re not seeing them, they’re going to show you where you need to add some of that. So, you’re evaluating what the editor is bringing to the project.
Kathi – Yeah, I’ve worked with two of the best editors, I think, in the business. Kathleen Kerr, and Stephanie Smith. I didn’t realize they both have alliteration in their name.
Mick – You have to have that. It’s the secret.
Kathi – Good to know. Also, I’ve worked with Lyneta Smith. I found, something really important for me, and it’s what you just mentioned. I know that my pages are going to bleed. There is going to be red all over there. Just tell me that there’s something in here that you get; that you see some sort of promise. I just need a little encouragement along the way.
Mick – You gotta have it.
Kathi – Gotta have it.
Mick – Gotta sandwich it with the compliments and the “Here’s where you need to work.” And another gong.
Kathi – Yes, you know, us writers? We are fragile creatures. That is for sure. Okay, so Lyneta, you shared some of the tools of the trade and where to get them. I would assume these are things that an editor must have. If they say they can’t convert something to Word? That might not be the editor for you. I’ve had people actually say that to me. So, you said there are some tools of the trade and where to get them? Can you share some of those that you feel are really important for an editor to have?
Lyneta – Well, certainly, Chicago Manual of Style, if you’re editing books. Or the AP Style Guide, if you’re editing magazine articles or web articles. The style guides are, basically, the bible of editing. Those are where all the rules are written down, and it’s understood among literary people that that’s the standard guide by which you operate. The Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style Guild are fairly similar. There are some differences. Depending on what you’re editing, you’re going to use that style guide and abide by it. If there’s ever any argument about, “Ooh, should a comma be here or not?” It’s going to be in that giant thick book called CMoS. You can go chapter and verse, just like in the Bible, and that’s just where all the rules are. That’s the main thing. If someone is self-publishing and they ask me to edit a longer piece, I just ask them if Chicago is the style guide they prefer. I just say, “That’s the standard most publishers go by.” And they say, “I don’t know what that is, but great.”
Kathi – “Sure. Knock yourself out.” Right. You know, I think a good editor also knows when to break the rules for a particular author’s voice. It’s so interesting. Some people get so hung up. The rules are important. What the rules do, is they keep communication open. You’re trying not to trip anybody up. But, also, you don’t live and die by the rules, because sometimes a grammatical error is what’s needed to communicate, and a good editor understands that.
Mick – That’s so good. That’s right. There’s always an exception to every rule. You’ve got to bear that in mind. A good editor knows this.
Kathi – Yes. I’ve been spoiled with good editors who actually get it. Well, guys, this has been so great. I’m excited because we’re coming back, and we’re talking about “What kind of editing do you need?” It’s probably more than you’d think. For somebody like me, it feels very sad, but I also want to start off next time about why a creative needs an editor, and how that gives you freedom. I think that’s important and underrated. You guys, thank you so much for being at the Writing at The Red House podcast. This has been such a fun episode.
Mick – Thank you, Kathi.
Lyneta – Thanks for having us.
Kathi – Okay, and friends, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. I’m Kathi Lipp. You’ve been given the most important message in the world. Now, go live it.
You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. Thank you for spending a little time getting better at what God has called you to do.
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